Evaluation and Consulting Services for the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission

The MacArthur Foundation awarded the Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission (CJC) a Safety and Justice Challenge Grant to participate in the planning phase of the Challenge. Palm Beach County was one of twenty sites selected from across the country to participate in the planning phase of the Challenge. The goals of the Justice Challenge include a focus on reducing the jail population and addressing racial disparity in pre-trial release, while improving public safety in Palm Beach County.

FSU is assisting the Palm Beach County CJC with reviewing their jail population trends, pre-trial release trends, racial disparity in pre-trial decision-making, and the piloting of a jail risk-assessment instrument. Specifically, FSU’s role includes providing guidance on research design, methods, and analytical techniques for the following five project activities.

(1) A review of the jail populations and trends. This involves examining trends in bookings, releases, and the length of time spent in jail while examining those trends across various demographic groups.

(2) A review of first appearance hearing decisions from 2014-2016. This activity focuses on whether individuals were released or detained, as well as type of release received during first appearance.

(3) A three-month pilot of the Virginia Pretrial Risk Assessment Instrument (VPRAI). This involves an evaluation of a pilot study of the VPRAI in Palm Beach County. Specifically, this evaluation will focus on racial disparities and judicial variance.

(4) An examination of the success and failure rates of pretrial release from 2010-2015 by type of release and demographics.

(5) A review of potential racial disparities in Palm Beach County’s pretrial jail decisions. This review focuses on disparities in bonding out of jail prior to first appearance and first appearance decisions.


Principal Investigator: Thomas Blomberg, Dean and Sheldon L. Messinger Professor of Criminology

Co-Principal Investigator: William Bales, Ph.D.

Project Manager: George Pesta, Ph.D. 

Graduate Student: J.W. Andrew Ranson

Dates: 2016 – 2017

Funding Agency: Palm Beach County Criminal Justice Commission

Funding Amount: $30,000